Researchers are gathering a growing pile of data showing that regular low doses of aspirin, a staple of medicine cabinets around the world for more than a century, can reduce the risk of several types of cancer. But nobody really knows how it works. In search of clues, scientists have turned to tiny transparent zebrafish larvae that have been genetically modified to develop skin cancer. The tumour is made up of cancerous cells (green outline) that have high levels of a molecular receptor called EP1 (stained magenta), which acts like a radio receiver. They receive a chemical signal called prostaglandin, which tells the cancer cells to grow. Aspirin turns off prostaglandin production by neighbouring immune cells (stained red), cutting off the ‘fuel supply’ and slowing tumour growth. Although they’re just a few millimetres long, these delicate fish larvae could hold the explanation for aspirin’s cancer-preventive effects on our own bodies.
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